Differences in Self- and Other-Induced Mu Suppression Are Correlated with Empathic Abilities
Recent research suggests a role of the human mirror neuron system in empathic processing. Electroencephalographic (EEG) mu suppression in the 8–13 Hz band-range has been proposed to reflect mirror-like activation of sensorimotor cortices. We therefore investigated the relationship between suppression in the 8–13 Hz range and empathic abilities as measured by the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI). Based on previous work showing significant differences between execution- and observation-related mu suppression and on theories of empathy pointing to the importance of discriminating self from other, we predicted that the size of this difference within individuals would correlate with participants' perspective-taking abilities. Larger differences in execution- and observation-induced mu suppression were associated with greater scores on the perspective-taking subscale of the IRI. The current data are therefore consistent with the claim that neural activity reflected in mu suppression is related to empathic abilities.